So why are we interested in the DIY-FabLab as a concept? Why not just do what everyone else who's interested in FabLabs does, and go out and buy tens of thousands of dollars' worth of expensive gear? Surely, isn't that the first step?
Imagine building your own TV; it'd be fun and informative, make you aware of what you're buying, and what goes into it. Now imagine building 1000 TVs a week; is that 1000 times more fun? Of course not, it's a repetitive, mind-numbing job.
Our current industrial structures seem to treat people as components in a technological production system designed to seek ever greater efficiency. While this is indeed increasingly effective at producing objects and profits, the structures built by these systems tend towards centralism. Global market networks tend to centralise high-tech production capacity, skills, expertise, knowledge, work, money, opportunities… Arguably, they tend to centralise everything of value! There are social and environmental side-effects of this quest for efficiency which haven't yet been resolved.
But it doesn't have to be that way. The DIY FabLab is about exploring a future where technology is co-opted to conform to more human network structures that are more localised, more highly skilled, more environmentally sustainable and more fun to take part in.
These distributed production networks will be much more effective at producing skilled, educated, engaged and self-reliant people. They'll be more efficient at producing happy people, even if their small, local scale may suggest lower efficiency in terms of producing objects and money. We believe they will also be more effective at producing sustainable innovation - because more people, and more diverse people, will be engaged with production processes. Local people will have first-hand awareness of local requirements, resource inputs, the outputs and side-effects, which will make them able to innovate appropriately. The implications for local business incubation and job creation are obvious.
Because these structures are localised, not centralised, they're likely to be far more resilient and configurable, resistant to any crises that the future may bring1).
Usually FabLabs cost many tens of thousands of dollars. They're controlled and run by experts - usually researchers and advanced students. They're expensive, experimental and exclusive. Their benefits are a million miles from the experience of everyday people, and thus far, their results are highly speculative.
Access Space's DIY FabLab is different!